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Area seniors take to the court for a new activity with a funny name

A new opportunity is available for seniors at the Senior Center in Jonesborough — the popular game with a funny name, pickleball.
“It actually started with my husband visiting the Johnson City Senior Center after noticing the game going on over there,” Jonesborough Senior Center Program Director Marcia Rountree said. “He had heard of it before and started playing; he really enjoyed it and wanted to get pickleball going in Jonesborough.”
Pickleball is a racquet game, much like tennis or badminton, but is played with wooden paddles and a whiffle ball.
Court dimensions are the size of the standard badminton surface and the net is set a few feet smaller than the one used in tennis.
The game can be played with singles or doubles.
The ball is served underhand, diagonally. One bounce is required before the return.
Only the team serving can score a point. Service persists until it is broken by the other team or a fault occurs.
Standard pickleball rules read that a game is played to 11 points, with the winning team needing to be ahead by two for the game to conclude.
The game that continues to grow in popularity, was recently added to the Senior Olympics and is played throughout the United States and in many countries around the world.
While pickleball is played by all ages, the draw for seniors is that the whiffle ball moves at about one-third the speed of a tennis ball, making it easier to run down, volley and retrieve shots that go awry.
Rountree says the game is very much like tennis in the physical benefits for seniors.
“It is very aerobic,” Rountree said. “You get a similar cardio exercise and challenge your hand-eye coordination much like you would in tennis. The difference is that you don’t really need an area that is fenced in to play.”
While the Senior Center uses the shuffleboard area to host pickleball games right now, Rountree hopes the new facility being constructed in town will provide a better place for the game to be played.
“We could get more involved if we could play indoors,” she added.
The game was invented in the summer of 1965 at the home of U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, where in the absence of a badminton shuttlecock, a whiffle ball took its place. Wooden paddles were later created for the game.
As to how pickleball got its name, well that’s still up for debate.
One popular story is that the game was named after Pritchard’s dog, Pickle, because the first game was played using his toy ball.
However, the Pritchards maintained Pickle the dog arrived after pickleball was invented at their home.
Regardless of how the game’s name came about, the activity itself now provides area seniors another opportunity to stay healthy and have a little fun.
“We are just trying to make as much available for our members to keep them active and challenged and this is one more opportunity that we would like to promote,” Rountree said. “Programming is important and we want to keep our seniors healthy.”